The Microbiome / Consciousness Connection
Inflammation (or Stress) is at the root of all diseases. Studies show that an anti-inflammatory lifestyle is protective over brain neurons, balances hormones, fights the formation of tumors and has mood-enhancing benefits. While you might not think that gut health impacts your mood and energy much, think again. Gut-friendly bacteria can help manage neurotransmitter activity, which makes them natural anti-depressants and anti-anxiety organisms. Instead of taking anti-inflammatory medications to manage illnesses like arthritis or heart disease, we’re much better off reducing inflammation in the body. If only changing our diet was the complete answer. The soundtrack within (thoughts & feelings) has much more impact on your body’s inflammation whether you are conscious of it or not, hence leading to poor gut health.
Poor gut health is tied to dozens of diseases, especially:
- Autoimmune diseases (arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Hashimoto’s disease, etc.): Autoimmune disorders develop when the body’s immune system goes awry and attacks its own healthy tissue. Inflammation and autoimmune reactions largely stem from an overactive immune system and poor gut health. Leaky Gut Syndrome can develop, which results in small openings in the gut lining opening up, releasing particles into the bloodstream and kicking off an autoimmune cascade.
- Brain disorders/cognitive decline (Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc.): Inflammation is highly correlated with cognitive decline, while an anti-inflammatory lifestyle has been shown to lead to better memory retention, longevity and brain health. We now know there are multiple neuro-chemical and neuro-metabolic pathways between the central nervous system/brain and microbiome/digestive tract that send signals to one another, affecting our memory, thought patterns and reasoning. Differences in our microbial communities might be one of the most important factors in determining if we deal with cognitive disorders in older age.
- Cancer: Many studies have shown a link between gut health and better protection from free radicals, which causes brain, breast, colon, pancreatic, prostate and stomach cancers. Microbes influence our genes, which means they can either promote inflammation and tumor growth or raise immune function and act as a natural cancer treatment. An anti-inflammatory lifestyle can also help lower serious side effects of cancer treatments (like chemotherapy).
- Fatigue and joint pain: Certain bacteria within our digestive tracts contribute to deterioration of joints and tissue. Research shows that a healthier gut environment helps lower the risk for joint pain, swelling, and trouble moving in people with osteoarthritis and inflamed joints. Some studies have found that patients with psorathic arthritis (a type of autoimmune joint disease) have significantly lower levels of certain types of intestinal bacteria and that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have other strains present.
- Mood disorders (depression, anxiety): Ever hear of the “gut-brain connection”? Well here’s how it works: Your diet affects your microbiome and neurotransmitter activity, and therefore how you feel, your ability to handle stress and your energy levels. Dietary changes over the last century — including industrial farming, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and the degradation of nutrients in foods — are the primary forces behind growing mental health issues like depression. Low nutrient availability, inflammation and oxidative stress affect the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which control your moods, ease tension and raise alertness. It’s also a two-way street when it comes to your gut and mood: Poor gut health contributes to mood problems, and high amounts of stress also damage your gut and hormonal balance.
- Learning disabilities (ADHD, autism): Our bodies are interconnected systems, and everything we put in them, expose them to or do to them affects the whole person, including their growth, development and mental capabilities. ADHD and other learning disabilities have been tied to poor gut health, especially in infants and children. We are continuing to learn how our neurodevelopment, cognition, personality, mood, sleep and eating behaviors are all affected by the bacteria that reside within our guts. There seems to be an association between diet and psychiatric disorders due to metabolites of dietary components and enzymes encoded in our human genome that inhabit our guts. One of the most important factors seems to be establishing a healthy microbiome from birth, including a vaginal delivery ideally and being breastfed, which populates the newborn’s gut with the mother’s healthy bacteria.
- Infertility and pregnancy complications: We first start establishing our microbiomes at exactly the points we are born, and our environment continues to manipulate the bacteria within us for the remainder of our lives. As we age and change, so do our microbiota. This is both good and bad news. It means some of us might already be at a disadvantage if we were exposed to high amounts of bad bacteria or antibiotics at a young age, especially if we were also being withheld from good bacteria that we receive through being breastfed. At the same time, a healthy pregnancy, delivery and period of being breastfed can set the stage for a strong immune system.
- Allergies, asthma and sensitivities: Certain beneficial bacteria lower inflammation, which lessens the severity of allergic reactions, food allergies, asthma or infections of the respiratory tract. This means stronger defense against seasonal allergies or food allergies and more relief from coughing, colds, the flu or a sore throat. An anti-inflammatory diet helps prevent susceptibility to leaky gut syndrome and helps eliminate phlegm or mucus in the lungs or nasal passages, which makes it easier to breathe.
HOW THE GUT MICROBIOME WORKS
Would you believe that within the human body there are about 10 times as many outside organisms as there are human cells? Microbes inhabit both the inside and outside of our bodies, especially residing in the gut, digestive tract, genitals, mouth and nose areas. What determines if someone’s microbiome is in good shape or not? It comes down to the balance of “bad bacteria” versus “good bacteria.”
Essentially, we need a higher ratio of gut-friendly “bugs” to outnumber those that are harmful in order to stay resilient and symptom-free. In my case, stripping all of the beneficial bacteria on a quest to clean up my subconscious mind made me fall ill, but unfortunately, due to factors like a poor diet, high amounts of stress and environmental toxin exposure, most people’s microbiomes are home to many billions of potentially dangerous bacteria, fungus, yeast and pathogens. When we carry around more pathogenic bacteria than we should, and also lack the diversity of protective bacteria we need, the microbiota suffers.
We can see the connection between our gut and our mind played out in our lives through the impact that stress or anxiety has on our appetite or ability to assimilate food, as well as patterns of elimination (nausea, constipation or diarrhea). The popular thinking is that the mind is taking its’ drama out on the gut. However, this may not be entirely accurate. The communication between the gut and the brain is a two way street, one from mind -> gut and the other from the gut -> mind.
The overall state of the colony effects the environment of the gut, the environment of the gut effects the levels of chemicals, neurotransmitters and nutrients assimilated, the levels of neurotransmitters released by the cells lining the gut influence the state of awareness of the Central Nervous System, in turn creating an under current that ripples beneath our conscious thought processes bringing about a specific mood or state of mind.
Recent studies, however, are beginning to suggest that the “condition” of other areas of our body have a major impact on our emotional and mental states. One of the regions of the body receiving a great deal of attention due to its potential impact on our ability to “digest” stress, is “the gut.”
This new and radical way of looking at the interaction between our mind and gut is even being recognized within the hallowed halls of psychiatric medicine. A select group of psychiatrists are now not only including their patient’s gastrointestinal history as part of their pre-treatment assessments, but also prescribing rounds of targeted probiotics along with psychotherapy and conventional medication. Patient feedback and recent clinical trails are just beginning to show that targeted “probiotics could affect the functioning of the human brain.”
Ayurveda, “the science of life,” is a comprehensive, complimentary alternative medicine system that is over 5,000 years old. In Ayurveda, food is considered to be a powerful medicine. This perspective makes perfect sense when we realize that everything we take into our body is used to create the tissues that make it up. To assist our microbiota we should begin by eating foods that are calming and nutritive to our intestinal flora. Eating foods that “feed” the microbiota is especially important. These are called Pre-biotics. Probiotics feed off of these fibrous foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.) A diet low in sugar is also important as unhealthy bacteria seem to thrive on it. I especially like the Body Ecology Diet for recommendations especially if you suffer from any of the included conditions. Eating pesticide free, non-GMO, is critical to microbiota health as well as provides the healthy building blocks for our cellular constituents. The magic dirt water product, Restore helps heal the gut lining heal from the damage done to the earth’s microbiome due to the herbicide, glyconate (RoundUp.) Probiotics & good bacterial flora that we eat (ie; whole food probiotics or fermented foods) are important to the health of our digestive system which in turn effects our overall health. Each type of probiotic has specific benefits that assist the body for various issues associated with lack of diversity which I will touch on in this post.
In your daily life, the choices you make about what you eat can make the greatest difference in cultivating a healthy gut microbiome. The modern Western diet, which is low in fiber and high in sugar, salt, fat, and highly processed food, can also severely degrade the gut microbiome. When the gut microbiome is damaged or degraded, the intestinal wall can also be damaged causing Leaky Gut Syndrome. Then certain chemicals made by the bacteria, also known as endotoxin can leak through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. Endotoxin is a potent trigger for our immune system and results in inflammation. As long as endotoxin is present, the inflammatory response will stay activated. This chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of many illnesses. Stay tuned for my free “Julie’s Top 10 Gut Health Supplement List” coming out soon!
Researchers believe that a flourishing, healthy gut microbiome is established by eating a wide range of natural foods, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and fiber. In general, if you follow the principle of avoiding refined and processed foods and favoring fresh, real food, you can be assured that you are nurturing your microbiome and your body-mind with the highest quality, anti-inflammatory nutrition.
Consume whole food probiotic-rich foods at least once a day to nourish the microbial population in your digestive tract. These are foods that contain living bacteria, such as:
- Active yogurt (I make my own from coconut meat & water.)
- Kefir (I make coconut water kefir & consume on an empty stomach every morning.)
- Kombucha (*in moderation) anything over 4% alcohol will feed Candida
Antibiotics are sometimes necessary in some cases to protect us from unwanted bacterial infections but they also do damage to the good bacteria of our gut. Unfortunately antibiotics are over prescribed, even in cases where they do very little good – such as viral infections. Overexposure to antibiotics is the most common reason that our gastric flora becomes weakened. In this state, even if we are able to break down the foods we have eaten, assimilation becomes difficult. Patience and responsibility are key. Stop looking for the quick fix and think long term overall health.
Adequate sleep is critical to the overall health of our digestive system. Some studies have shown that when you’re sleep-deprived or when you mess with your circadian rhythms (a in situations of jet lag), your gut microbes shift. Interestingly, this shift may not be metabolically neutral—it may shift in direction that predisposes you to obesity. A full, restful sleep cycle allows the body to heal in instances where there is damage to the body, including the to digestive system. Lack of sleep contributes to greater overall stress levels, inhibiting proper functioning of the stomach and small intestine. By getting enough quality sleep we decrease stress and increase the efficiency of our digestive system.
Mental Health, Awareness, & Wellness
Even though they don’t have mouths to communicate with us, each of our cells is intrinsically linked to our state of mind. In fact, our mental and emotional states are broadcast across the ‘entangled’ airwaves of our body, communicating the general condition of the body and mind at all times to all our cells. The “spooky” truth is that these cells don’t necessarily have to be inside our body or even in close proximity to be impacted by our thoughts or emotions. You are an energetic spiritual being having a human experience but you are also a Bacteria-sapien! You are more bacteria than you are human cells! These bacteria have a frequency and vibration. Deepak Chopra says that “bacteria can hear our thoughts.” I will go even further to say that thoughts affect our bacteria just like they do everything else in our life. Change your thoughts, change your microbiota!
Maintaining a healthy positive outlook is like taking a mental probiotic. Meditation is like giving a soothing balm to your microbes. I would love to teach you how to meditate–this has saved my life, but getting into the vibration of Gratitude as much as possible is imperative for overall health is also so important for your overall wellbeing. Take time each day to become aware of the sensations in your gut and send good vibes to your digestive system. This can be in the form of creative visualizations (perhaps a happy smiling stomach) or mental repetition (i.e. affirmations, mantra etc.) This can go a long way to not only keeping your flora happy and healthy, but also strengthening the lines of communication and awareness between your Central and Enteric Nervous Systems. This is why I am such a propionate of discovering what is not working in your life to Create A Vision for Your Life and a plan that supports what you need to thrive.
Consciousness and emotional states are two aspects of being that are thought to go hand in hand. Simply stated, if we are conscious then we have the capacity to “feel” or experience emotions. Feeling your feelings is essential in processing and changing perception which effects consciousness. Numbing out, pretending, and just existing and not feeling because it is too painful just leads to gut problems.
The current medical and psychological paradigm anchors the experience of consciousness within the central nervous system or “behind our eyes.” The fluctuations of consciousness, or our thoughts, stimulate the release of certain chemicals which we then, through past experience and conditioning, label as emotions. This is precisely why transforming negative thoughts to positive, more productive ones is at the root of my work as a Coach. It begins with awareness. This is precisely why meditation & hypnosis are essential tools in my work as an agent for elevating collective consciousness one individual at a time.
The bottom line: our consciousness is not just effected by what’s going on behind our eyes. There are many influences that are beyond the realm of our awareness, contributions from the microbiota being one. Research indicates that this body, which we normally associate as just being us, is composed not only of our own ‘Self’ cells but also a whole host of others that contribute to the sensations, chemicals and mental impressions associated with the experience of being alive. These bacterial colonists not only assist us in nurturing our body but also play a major role in regulating the experience of our mental and emotional states but does not forfeit the importance of taking responsibility for your own mental/emotional state by caring for your thoughts that affect your feelings that create the vibration for what it is what you see become manifest in your life. This is why living an awakened Vision-based, heart centered life is essential to your Consciousness. Consciousness can only be elevated by listening to the voice within, feeling & processing old emotions, and doing the work to remove the subconscious or unconscious patterns that limit one from evolving.
There is amazing research being done in regards to Ayawausca not just in elevating one’s consciousness due to its powerful effect in allowing the participant to see deep within their unconscious mind, but also having a genetic affect on chronic inflammation, treatment for depression, and other cognitive dysfunctions, as well as healing endocrine system dysfunction like autoimmune and metabolic syndrome. This is revolutionary in the field of Neuroregeneration, overcoming Addiction and more. Interestingly, this combination of herb & root from the Amazon rainforest also has an anti parasitic quality among so many other therapeutic uses.
Taking care of your Microbiota =
Now that you have an idea that our mind-body connection is influenced by our intestinal passengers, what can we do to create an environment that facilitates a healthy, happy relationship? It just so happens that we can do several things to ensure domestic tranquility down under.
Most of us were taught that to stay healthy, we need to avoid bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. This has led many people to take hygiene vigilance too far, with the constant use of hand sanitizers, household disinfectants, and other antibacterial products. While being clean is beneficial, the attempt to create a sterile environment can weaken our immune system and lead to an increased risk of illness. Living clean has taken on new meaning to me than it once had. At one point I stripped all the beneficial bacteria from my gut trying to “clean up” the trauma of my past in order to function more efficiently and just be happier. It took getting really sick to recognize that was not the right way to go about it. It took years to restore my gut microbiota after that. Living Clean, for me anyway, is about removing the unconscious patterns that limit me and my clients to reveal the purity of who I truly am, a light being covered in microbiota.
The sanitizing substances that kill disease-causing germs also kill the friendly flora in our microbiome, which is the name for the vast colonies of micro-organisms that inhabit our body. The majority of them are found in our gut but they are also on our skin, in our mouth, and in most other locations on and in our body. These micro-organisms actually outnumber our own cells. These microbes aren’t all bad. In fact, we live in a symbiotic, caring relationship with most of them. It’s only when the codependent ones come and bring along their parasitic friends that we have problems if we don’t have good friends to support us. All of these microbes have been a vital part of our evolution and health for millions of years.
Beginning at birth, nature bathes us in microbes. Before we are born, our body has very few microbes and our gastrointestinal (GI) tract is completely sterile. Then as we move through the vaginal canal, we are coated in our mother’s microbiome from that area. Within hours of birth, the GI tract begins to be colonized by microbes. During the first few days of our life, our mother’s colostrum (breast milk) helps to feed and colonize our gut with good bacteria while preventing harmful bacteria from growing and causing illness. Scientists used to think colostrum was low in nutrients and therefore not very valuable. Now we know that colostrum delivers a mega-dose of microbiome-building elements and breastfeeding is part of the process nature carefully designed to build our microbiome.
Approximately 70–80 percent of your immune system resides in the lining of your gut, and your microbiome is in constant contact with it. A healthy, resilient gut microbiome is high in richness and biodiversity. When there is high richness and diversity of the microbes in your gut, your immune system is stronger and more stable.
Gut microbiome richness and diversity are two important concepts to understand:
- Richness is the total number of bacterial species in your gut microbiome.
- Diversity is the number of individual bacteria from each of the bacterial species present in your gut microbiome.
With high richness and diversity, a community is much more resilient and capable. This is easy to see because when you have lots of people with different specialties available to you, you’re able to call on just the right person for the job at hand. Having a rich and diverse gut microbiome provides us with the resources our body needs to fight off pathogens and live in a state of homeostasis, or healthy dynamic balance.
How do we increase gut microbiome diversity and live healthier lives? In addition to stopping the overuse of disinfectants and sanitizers, we also need to be much more selective about our use of antibiotics. Having awareness around the compounds in our food, ingesting chlorinated water (south or food), medications, alcohol, BPAs, pesticides, and stress…all equal one thing= inflammation. Not only is it super important to avoid these things, but also replenishing the gut with healthy bacteria from fermented foods and high quality supplements as well as taking responsibility for one’s thoughts which is probably the most important thing we can do to live healthier “cleaner” lives. The average person has 12,000-60,000 thoughts a day and 80% are negative and 95% are the same repetitive thoughts as the day before…another episode of GroundHog Day after the next. Your mind is the most powerful tool you have to change your inner & outer environment.
If you want to get individualized insight into your gut microbiome, I have partnered with Viome. Viome’s technology and analysis have the ability to see deep into your gut microbiome. When you take your Viome test, you’ll receive targeted dietary and supplement advice that is designed to boost your gut microbiome diversity. When you get your Viome results, you’ll see your gut microbiome richness and diversity score, along with foods you should eat plenty of, foods you should minimize, and foods you should avoid altogether. Your personalized recommendations help you feed the beneficial microbes living in your gut, while starving the harmful ones—boosting your overall richness and diversity. I look forward to other deep conversations about how to transform both the subconscious & the microbiome for the evolution of consciousness…which is why we are ultimately here.